Best Upper Body Workouts for Lean Muscles

Remember that you need to supplement your diet with an exercise regime that will allow you to build lean muscles. You cannot rely on diet alone, as your body needs to work out in order to shape your muscles. 

For this, you can undertake upper body workouts that are beneficial to the muscles present in your chest, shoulders, forearms, biceps, triceps, and upper back.

The main muscles, or muscle groups, that you will want to focus on in this area are the deltoids, pectorals, trapezius (also known as traps), latissimus dorsi (also known as lats), triceps, and biceps. The deltoids and pectorals are found in your chest, the trapezius and lats in your upper and middle back, and the triceps and biceps, of course, in your arms.

We will look at exercises that target these specific areas and make sure that you attain a thorough burn each time. These exercises are a combination of equipment-based and non-equipment-based exercises, and you will reap the benefits of both once you start performing these.

There is also a segment on CrossFit training as it will help your body to indulge in some high-intensity interval training. Let us start.

Chest Exercises

Before you start with any of these, you need to warm up. For this, you can take up 30 minutes of cardio, such as running or jumping, and get your body warmed up to start with the exercise routines.

Barbell Bench Press

Barbell lifts allow you to generate the most power, which means that this bench press will let you move the most weight. Barbells are easier to control than dumbbells and thus serve as a great starting point if you are new to these kinds of exercises.

How to perform

Lie on the bench, and take hold of the barbell in the starting position. Lift the barbell, and bring it down slowly, while breathing in, until the bar touches in the middle of your chest. After pausing briefly, push the bar back to the starting position while breathing out.

Breathing is very important when doing this exercise. It gives your body enough energy to bring down and lift it back up. If you don’t properly breathe, there’s a good chance you could drop the bar on yourself.

Be sure to have a spotter, especially if this is your first time doing it or you are lifting a heavyweight. If there isn’t anyone available, then make sure to lift a lower weight and not push it. Not having a spotter can cause a lot of issues, especially if you can’t lift the weight back up. You should definitely know exactly how to do this workout before you attempt it. Not knowing how could result in you doing this incorrectly and hurting yourself or worse.

Dumbbell Bench Press

This exercise is great for all those trying to firm up their chest muscles. You will have positive results in no time. Dumbbells allow for more of a workout than barbells because dumbbells require each side of your body to work independently, which makes your stabilizer muscles work harder. This also means that not only does your chest get a workout, but so does your back, making this a great double-whammy workout.

How to perform: To perform this exercise, lie on the bench, and hold dumbbells (weight depends on your body type and strength) next to your chest. Next, turn them around slowly, such that your clenched fingers now face you. Slowly raise them upwards; you must feel the pressure on your chest. Hold for a couple of seconds before lowering it again and getting into the initial position.

Bent-Arm Barbell Pullovers

This exercise is especially great for building up your lats. It works the lats much better than the straight-arm barbell pullover because it works completely different muscles. This exercise still works some other muscles, like the pecs, triceps, and deltoids, but the main focus is on the lats.

How to perform: Lie on a flat bench, holding a barbell shoulder-width apart with your arms at a 90-degree angle from your body. Make sure that the barbell is held directly over your chest, with a bend in your arms. 

With your arms locked in the bent position, lower the weight slowly backwards behind your head. Stop moving backwards once you feel a stretch in your chest. Bring the barbell back up to the starting position using the same arching movement.

Dumbbell Chest Flyes

After doing this one a few times, you’ll feel it in your chest. This exercise specifically strengthens your chest muscles along with your shoulders. You should do this one slowly, and make sure to not let the dumbbells touch at the top of the exercise. This not only adds to the exercise to make it harder, but it also forces you not to take too long of a pause.

How to perform

Lie on a flat bench with a dumbbell in each of your hands. Bring your arms up over you, shoulder-width apart, with your palms facing each other. Keeping a slight bend in your elbow, start to lower your arms in a wide arc to each side until you feel a stretching in your chest. Then bring your arms back up to the starting position, squeezing your chest muscles while you do it.

Remember that this exercise’s movement occurs through the shoulder joint, so keep the rest of your arm stationary.

What’s great about this exercise is you can actually do it on either an inclined bench or a flat bench. This changes some of the muscles that you’re working, so you can easily get two workouts just by changing the position of the bench.

Weighted Push Up

The push-up is a great exercise for your back and is one that will help in strengthening your chest muscles as well. Don’t try this if you don’t already have some upper body and back strength. 

There’s a very good chance you could hurt yourself in the process. You have to modify the regular push up in order to make it beneficial for your chest, and here is how.

How to perform

Start by getting into the push-up plank position, and bring your hands closer, such that there is a 5-inch distance between them. Ask someone to place a weight on your upper back. Remember that the weight needs to be stable and something that puts equal pressure all over your back. 

Slowly lower your body and get perform the regular push up. Do as many reps as is comfortable. It’s pretty interesting that you can modify a regular push up to make it more of a muscle workout. It’s a simple exercise that does require another person, but it can really send your muscle training above and beyond.

Low Cable Crossover

This exercise requires you to use a double cable pulley machine, which can be found in most gyms. It targets your deltoids and chest muscles at the same time, making it a great exercise to do when trying to build those muscles.

How to perform

Place the pulleys in the low position, and take one handle in each hand. Step forward so that the tension increases in the pulley. Turn your hands so that the palms face forward, keeping your hands below your waist and your arms straight.

Bring your hands upward to the mid-line of your body while bending your arms slightly. At the highest point, your hands will be in front of your chest with your palms up. Then, bring your arms back down to the starting position.

Shoulder Exercises

Shoulder muscles need to be trained in order for you to have firm and good-looking shoulders. It can also help with any shoulder muscle pain that you may have. This could come from just having weak shoulders, which is why you would want to strengthen them in any way you could. 

Here are four exercises that will help you attain lean muscles in no time.

Seated Shoulder Press

This exercise looks extremely simple but gives your shoulders a good workout. It affects all the muscles in your shoulders, and you will start to feel the burn in no time. After doing this exercise consistently, you’ll notice that you are more balanced in your upper body. You might even stand a little straighter because your shoulders have more muscle to them.

How to perform

Start by sitting on a chair, which should curve back a bit. Now hold dumbbells in both hands (weight of your choice), and hold them next to your shoulders. You need to have your fingers facing the other way. 

Now raise them up, and touch the two dumbbells together. Hold the position for a couple of seconds, and then the dumbbells them again, such that they are on par with your shoulder. Continue for 5 to 10 minutes or as per your convenience.

Battle Ropes

This exercise is best for those looking to strengthen their front deltoids. You will have strong deltoids if you perform these. It’s also kind of fun to do, which is something that you should always look for in a workout. It’s a good way to spice up your usual workouts and can be done at home if you wish.

How to perform

To start, buy yourself good quality battle ropes. Stand straight with the ropes in your hand and then squat, such that your butt is parallel to the floor. Now start moving the ropes up and down with full force. Remember to control the ropes; they should not control you. Do this for 5 to 10 minutes or as long as is comfortable.

Upright Barbell Row

The upright barbell row works quite a few muscles in your back, as well as your side and your deltoid. As you lift up, the muscle called serratus anterior is worked. It goes from your armpit down and is a good muscle to strengthen.

How to perform

Grab the barbell with an overhand grip, with your arms slightly less than shoulder-width apart. Rest the bar on top of your thighs, with your arms extended and a very slight bend in your elbows. Keep your back straight. 

While exhaling, raise your elbows up and to the side, and use your shoulders to lift the bar. Keep the bar as close to your body as you can. Lift the bar until it almost reaches your chin, then lower the bar down slowly while inhaling. 

Remember that your elbows drive the motion in this exercise, and they should always be higher in the air than your forearms. Your torso must remain stationary for the whole exercise.

Side Lateral Raise

The side lateral raise is a great way to work your deltoids and other shoulder muscles. With strong shoulders comes less chances of hurting yourself when carrying heavy objects or doing anything that requires some shoulder movement. This can easily be done at home if you have a few dumbbells sitting around.

How to perform

Stand straight with the one dumbbell in each hand and your arms at your side, palms facing in. While exhaling, lift the dumbbells to your side while keeping a slight bend in your elbows and your hands tilted slightly forward. Keep raising your arms until they are parallel to the floor. Pause for a second, and then lower the dumbbells back to the starting position while inhaling.

Forearm Exercises

The forearm is a difficult area to train, and most people don’t concentrate on it. But you need to consider each and every part of your body when you choose to build lean muscles. You might not realize it, but having strong forearms means you’ll have a stronger grip. 

This is especially important in the law enforcement field, as those without a strong grip could easily lose their lives if they can’t hold on to a suspect. It’s also important for working out because a stronger grip means you’ll be able to hold on to weights much better. 

Not to mention that your forearms are the first thing many people see when they look at your arms, so you want them to look good. Let us look at a couple of effective forearm exercises that will help you build lean muscles in no time.

Plate Pinch

This is probably the best forearm exercise for you as it affects the forearm and helps you attain toned forearms without much effort. Be sure to start off with a lower weight, and slowly make your way up as you do this more and more. You don’t want to hurt yourself right when you start to make a difference in your forearm strength.

How to perform: Start by holding two pinch plates that have been joined together. You can choose the weight that is apt for you. You can add more if you need to have a better burn. Hold it for 30 seconds, and then move to the other arm. Do three sets. It is best to do this after your shoulder exercises.

Barbell Hold

Performing the barbell hold is a great way to train your forearm muscles. Given that you have to focus on holding it for as long as possible, gravity plays a huge part, making this a very effective forearm exercise. Here is how you can do it.

How to perform

Start by choosing a weight of your choice. The barbell needs to have a thick rod for easy grip. Now stand in front of it, lift it from the stand, lower it back down, and allow your arms to stay normal. Hold for 30 seconds, and place it back. Do three reps.

Farmers Walk

This seems like a super simple workout. All you do is hold some weights in your hands and walk around. You shouldn’t do it for longer than a minute, but even something like 30 seconds will be a pretty good exercise. 

Of course, you need to make sure to have dumbbells that you are able to carry around for an extended period of time. Don’t start with 45 pounds if you have little to no arm muscle, as you’ll only end up hurting yourself.

How to perform

Pick up a dumbbell in each hand. With a straight back and your arms hanging down at your side, keep the dumbbells at your side. Then start to walk back and forth. 

This exercise seems to be very simple, but what makes it a great workout is the time that you put into it: it is recommended to start with 30 seconds and work your way up. Your forearms and other muscles will start to burn faster than you might think.

Biceps Exercises

For all those who are not aware of what biceps are, they are the three muscles that lie between the shoulders and the elbows. This is a problem area for many people as they do not lift heavy weights on a regular basis and end up having a lot of fat built up. 

These are also the muscles that are commonly used when lifting heavy objects. If you don’t have strong biceps, you might not be able to carry all that much and definitely not for long periods of time. Here are two effective exercises to help you attain toned biceps.

Chin Ups

Chin-ups are exercises that you perform in order to firm up your bicep muscles, and this particular exercise affects all three of the muscles involved, viz. The biceps brachia, the brachialis, and the brachioradialis. 

These are similar to pull-ups, but they have many differences. A pull up has a much wider grip than a chin up and also uses different muscles. Generally, with a pull-up, you want to get up above the bar a little higher than just your chin. However, with a chin-up, you need only touch your chin to the bar in order to succeed. These are great to quickly build up your biceps.

How to perform

Start by finding a tall enough bar that helps you pull yourself up fully. Now hold it tightly by keeping a 12-inch gap between your hands, and pull yourself up to such that your chin touches the bar. Lower yourself down again.

One rule of thumb is to always follow the 2:2 motion for your biceps. So for every 2 seconds, you spend in the chin-up position, you need to spend 2 seconds in the chin down position. Repeat as many times as is comfortable.

Barbell Curls

This exercise is mainly for the biceps brachia, but you will feel the burn in your forearms and the rest of your biceps as well. This is a very effective exercise and can make a difference in all of your arms rather than just your biceps, which makes this a great exercise.

How to perform

Start by choosing a heavy enough barbell. Now stand straight, and hold it in your hands. Don’t hold it like you normally do; your thumbs should be on top. Now pull it up by curling your arms, and make sure the rod touches your chin. Hold the upward pose for 2 seconds and the downward pose for 2 seconds. Continue for as long as is comfortable.

Dumbbell Curls

This exercise is similar to barbell curls, but of course, uses dumbbells instead of a barbell. Try to keep the dumbbells level as you bring them up and then back down. This will make this exercise the most effective. It’s a great alternative to the barbell curl if you would rather use dumbbells.

How to perform

Standing straight, take a dumbbell in each hand at arm’s length. With your elbows kept close to your torso, rotate the palms of your hands until they face forward. Keep your upper arms fixed, and curl the weight upward, contracting your biceps. Make sure to exhale during this part. Keep raising the weights until the dumbbells are aligned with your shoulder, and you have fully contracted your biceps. Hold this position for a brief pause, then while inhaling slowly, lower the dumbbells back down.

Triceps Exercises

Triceps are the muscles on the back of your arms between your shoulder and elbow. The triceps are a set of three muscles that are known as the lateral head, the medial head, and the long head. 

You must perform exercises that will affect all three in order to build lean triceps. Having stronger triceps means you’ll have more shoulder stability, which in turn makes it so you are able to do a lot more. Let us look at a couple of the triceps exercises that will give you the best results.


Dips are great for both men and women looking to work on their triceps. Having toned triceps helps your hands look muscular and healthy. You will not need any equipment to perform these, and they can be easily done at home. 

However, there are pieces of equipment at a gym that will allow you to do dips. This is generally attached to a machine where you can also do pull-ups. Often, this machine has a seat to help assist you with pull-ups and dips, but it can be moved out of the way if you don’t need assistance.

How to perform

Start by finding two parallel benches with a little gap between them or just a low enough chair. Start by sitting on the chair, placing your hands next to you, and gripping the edge tightly. Now get your butt off of it, and lower it below the level of the chair. Now go down and up, down and up, and make sure you are using your triceps to assist you in the motion. 

To add leverage to it, you can place your legs on top of the bench in front of you or another chair.

Overhead Extensions

Overhead extensions are best for your entire triceps region. It is important for you to develop the “horseshoe region” in order for your triceps to look good. Be sure to have a good grip on the dumbbells, or you might drop them. Moreover, make sure you don’t hit your head as you do these, as that could result in a very bad injury if hit hard enough. You can affect these by performing overhead extensions, and here is how you can do it.

How to perform

Start by holding a dumbbell in your hand (weight of your choice), and stand straight. You must do this one hand at a time. Now lift it up and over your head. Hold the position for a couple of seconds and release. Do as many times as needed, and you need to feel a proper burn in your triceps.

Seated Dumbbell Press

This can be a very effective triceps workout that can build your muscle beyond where you thought it could be. If you mix this with a few others, your triceps will be more than strong enough.

How to perform

Sit on a bench that has some back support, and place the dumbbells upright on top of your thighs. Using your thighs for support, place one dumbbell in each hand, and lift each dumbbell up one at a time until it reaches shoulder height. 

Turn your wrists so that your palms face forward. This will be your starting position. While exhaling, push the dumbbells up so that they touch over your head. Pause and then bring the dumbbells down to starting position while inhaling.

This exercise does not have to be performed on a bench with back support, but it is recommended, especially for people who experience lower back issues.

Upper Back Exercises

The upper back muscles are slightly hard to train, and not many perform exercises that are apt for this area. Thus, many people ignore this area because they think of their arms, chest, and core first. 

The upper back is incredibly important. If you have a stronger upper back, you’ll be able to have better posture, and you’ll be less likely to injure yourself. Your back is what keeps you upright in the first place, so neglecting it doesn’t seem like a very smart idea.

You don’t need to put all of your focus on the upper back, but you should give it some focus to make sure it’s strong enough for your needs. You can choose the following for your regime:

Barbell Pull Over

The barbell pullover is quite basic but affects your upper lats, which are in your upper back. This exercise is incredibly useful, especially since you can use a barbell. Barbells, in many ways, are actually more efficient and easier to control than dumbbells are. 

You don’t need to focus as much on having everything parallel, as all of the weight is on a single bar, rather than you holding two separate things. Here is how you can use this exercise to your advantage.

How to perform

Start by lying on the bench. Now hold a barbell in your hand and over your face. Now push it back over your head, such that it is lower than your head level. Hold for a couple of seconds, and then lift it back up over your head.

Arm Pull Down

This is another exercise that is great for your upper back and works on the entire region to give you well-toned muscles. This specifically targets the lats and will make your back much stronger. 

This is a great exercise to do when you find that other exercises are more of arm exercises and don’t help your back, even if they should help a little. This one, however, will make it so you have very strong lats.

How to perform

Start by standing in front of the pull-down machine. You can also make yourself one by tying ropes to dumbbells and pulling them over a high rod. Now stand straight, and jut your chest out. Pull the weights down. and make sure your upper back is feeling the burn. You can do around 15 reps and four sets.

CrossFit Training Regime

The CrossFit training regime is a good way for you to exercise all the muscles in your body, and the short bursts give it a good burn. You can try out these upper body CrossFit routines to have a mean and ripped upper body. 

These workouts are meant to be challenging and varied. Your body won’t know what hit it after every exercise. Of course, doing different exercises is the best way to lose weight and get fit. If you do the same exercise for too long, then you’ll be stuck at a plateau and won’t know how to continue on from that. 

Doing the CrossFit training regime might just be one of the best things you could ever do, as long as you’re up for the challenge.

You will always start out doing a warm-up. This is simply meant to get your body moving and warmed up so it will be a lot more difficult to hurt yourself while doing something in the program. The best thing about this program is that it’s meant to take your body and make it able to do anything. It won’t be just strong or just fast, but it will have an even mix of every possibility. 

These classes will be incredibly intense, but they are more than worth it in the long run, so don’t be afraid to go out and try it. Many of the workouts are given names, and one of the examples we look at is called LYNNE.

For this, you perform bench press and pull-ups alternately. You do five rounds, and each one should contain maximum repetitions. These max repetitions are up to you, and you must do them until you feel the burn in your chest, arms, and entire upper body. 

You can try and outdo yourself every time, but don’t push yourself too hard. You can take a 5-minute break between the rounds. You should ideally be done with this in 30 minutes.


Fran is an easier workout routine if you are unable to do Lynne. This follows a pattern where you alternate between thrusters and pull-ups. Here is the Fran pattern for you:

  • 21 thrusters, followed by 21 pull ups
  • Then 15 thrusters, followed by 15 pull ups
  • Then 9 thrusters, followed by 9 pull ups

You can take a 2-minute break between each and be done with it within 10 to 15 minutes. Remember that these are performed in short bursts with rest allowed only after the set workout is done. If you are feeling too tired, then don’t continue, and try to reduce the workout time.

There are tons of different workouts within the CrossFit training regime. If you find a class and go to it, you’ll likely do many different sets of workouts every time you go. Maybe you’ll find a few that you’ll easily be able to do at home or at a gym. Then, you can do it there instead. If you want to continue in the class, you’re more than welcome to do that as well. Nothing is impossible with the CrossFit training regime.

Note: Besides doing the upper-body workouts to build lean muscles, perhaps you might consider trying supplements that can support weight loss.

Resurge is one of the most popular weight loss supplements that promise to help you shed pounds and sleep better. Because studies have shown that sleep deprivation is associated with deficiencies of growth hormone and elevated levels of cortisol, both of which contribute to obesity.

While other supplements promote nutritional factors, meal replacement forms, appetite suppression, or similar effects, Resurge boosts your body’s metabolism by increasing your core temperature. However, before making any purchases, you might want to read some Resurge reviews.

Besides, it should be noted that pills or supplements only work when combined with a healthy weight-loss diet and regular exercise. Supplements are ineffective on their own and are hardly a solution to obesity. 

In any case, it’s always best to talk with your doctor before you start taking a supplement, especially if you are taking medications, pregnant or have any health concerns.

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